So, here we are again. Turn-keys. Those things that I’m finding to be critical, yeah – Key – to our adjustment with this older child adoption. I’ve written about a couple already, here, and here. And now, I want to write about another: Tears.
How can those be so important?
Well, they are.
Yeah, it surprises me too.
I am learning that those tears are very important, critical, on different levels and in different ways. Those tears are part of the adjusting, and I am not sure you can really adjust to all the new of an adoption without them. And those tears are for everyone, of course. Because each person in the family needs them….to process the intensity of the changes and the building of new relationships. Now I’ll spare you the blathering about the tears of the rest of us: the jealous tears, the overwhelmed, the frazzled, the blue ones (yeah, it’s tough on moms too). Those are fodder for a different post.
With a younger child, toddler or infant adoption, there are also many tears. They are also critical to the adjustment process. But they are easier to parse out, to understand. They are typically more, not completely, but a bit more developmentally tracked and explained. They are simpler because the child is still slightly simpler. No less heartbreaking, but easier to console and repair. The tears of the turn-key I’m talking about here are the tears of the older adopted child. In this case, our daughter.
It’s hard to sort through all this coherently. But I’ll give it a go.
It seems like it wouldn’t be complex, I mean, it’s crying, right?
Crying is a no brainer.
Kids cry all the time.
They cry, you console.
When an adjusting older child cries, honestly, at first you kind of brace yourself in dread. You wonder, and fear a little bit, is this going to slip into something bad? Is it going to blow in like a hurricane – tank the day? Because you don’t know this child so intimately yet. You haven’t always seen this before. And you know the potential. So, you brace for it…..whatever IT is. And sometimes, it IS something very hard: rage, deep scarred grief, irrational fear. Sometimes, it’s just overwhelmed or misconception or misunderstanding. Sometimes, it’s just mundane, but ever so powerful, hormones. Or lack of sleep. Or an incoming virus. It’s all over the map, crying. Tears.
Even so. It’s all good. Seems counter intuitive. Our (ok, my) first reaction might, or is, naturally to wish it away, to sigh, to find the fastest way around it all. But, that’s not necessarily the answer either. Those tears are important. If this child is grieving the life they left behind, no matter if that seems unlikely as that life might have been very very harsh, then that grieving must be done. It’s valid; that life was what they knew, loved (some parts) and grew to themselves in.
It’s all too easy to think of grief as a ‘hanging on’ to something. It is and it isn’t. When done right, it’s a ‘hanging on’ to the good, and letting go of the bad. It’s ok to miss the ones or the place you loved. And that can totally jive with learning to love new ones or new places. But, I don’t think it can be done without the tears of it.
Then there are the tears of rage and grief of the hurt – for both old and new hard things. Those are kind of scary – for everyone. And it’s so hard to know how to help. And I”m not sure there is any way to really truly help – at least in the overt sense. You can’t fix it. I can’t fix it, or what has happened. But you/I can BE there. Just be there. Hold on to them, sit next to them, let yourself get their tears dripped onto you.
That, that mess, is a fix. It’s the only and best one. Because you are there, they are not alone, and you’re not gonna run away from it. And so, it gets less scary, for both of you. But, oh, those tears…they hurt. Both of you.
Then there are the new tears. These are the tears that can be both wonderful and frustrating. The frustrating ones are the ones that you, and maybe she, doesn’t understand. They just kind of spring up….from a misunderstanding, frazzled nerves, hormones. From being a teen girl. From sensory overload in a new country. From language gap, culture gap….all sorts of gaps. Those too, mostly just need a little time, maybe a little space, maybe a time to hold or sit nearby. They need to wash away….the weary effort, the bruised feelings. And they do.
Way back, oh 85 years or so ago, I learned in science class that water is the universal solvent. Well, I would say that the water shed in tears, when you are talking about an older child adoption and adjusting, is one of the universal glues. Can be. Maybe not always (I’m talking about us, here, always, ever…that’s all I know), but oh so often they are. These tears are bonding. The happy over the top joyful tears…they are just fun. They pull you all in with a grin. But the other kind….It’s hard not to care about a child who is sobbing next to you (even when you wish it weren’t so). For the child to allow you to see them, hold them, at their most vulnerable….that is the beginning of trust. For you to sit with them, hold them, get soaked by their tears…console them. That is the beginning of family.
A few days ago, a sibling moment occurred. It was a pretty typical moment – if had happened between most of the kids. However, it was the first between Marta and another. And it was a a flash. But, it cut to the quick for her. It launched one of those tear spilling, walking away times. It meant the evening would now be redirected. And it was. But, it was one of those turn-key times. Because as I consoled Marta and talked to her about what happened, she slowly sat up in bed and hugged her pillow to her. Then Bananas came in and flopped on her bed on the other side of the room they share. And she saw Marta, still crying. I said, “Has this happened to you?” And Bananas laughed and said, “Oh yeah! See, Marta, it’s like this…..” and she went on to act out the same interaction with the same sib.
And very soon, Marta was laughing with us as she snuffled up her tears, eyes red rimmed. And I froze the moment in my mind. These tears were healing. These tears were bonding. These tears were typical of any sibling scuffle. And this image, two sisters laughing about a sib, both on their beds in pj’s, while one allowed us to see her snuffling and gulping a bit as she came to calm, the other trying hard to make her laugh and move on…that’s a FAMILY. That’s what happens in families. So, yeah, these tears: they helped turn a bit closer to family. And I am grateful for even this tough turn-key. Another one made of gold.